Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism - Book Review

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Vanderbilt University
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Book review
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The problem is that social constructionism has made people believe that eating meat is absolutely right. Melanie Joy has coined the word carnism to refer to a belief system where eating of certain animals is considered appropriate and ethical. Carnism has made individuals to eat meat without thinking if what they are doing is right or wrong. Social constructionism has made individuals believe that what society has constructed to be right is absolutely right. Social constructionism has stifled peoples abilities to think on their own. Most people have become puppets and mere followers due to social constructionism. People are no longer confident about their real selves because of social constructs that suggest that what is popular is the absolute right. Melanie Joy states that eating of meat is unnatural yet social constructs have made it appear as if there is no type of food that is more enjoyable to consume than meat. Social constructs have made it appear that consumption of meat is very likable and enjoyable and anyone who does not partake in consuming meat is missing out on a mouth-watering experience. Social constructs have made it appear that meat- eating is popular among masses and therefore, anyone who does not partake in meat consumption is a social-reject. Social constructionism has made people oblivious to the fact that many animals suffer before meat finds itself on dinner tables, in hotels, and fast foods. However, people have different perceptions to eating different meats because their perceptions of those meats are different. Carnism is fuelled by a concert of psychological and social factors. For instance, people detest dog meat yet at the same time; dogs are mans favorite companions. Perceptions are due to a schema. A schema is a psychological framework that shapes peoples beliefs, perceptions, experiences, and ideas.

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Billions of animals are killed every year for meat purposes. To be precise, the book reveals that ten billion animals are killed yearly in the United States for meat purposes. Despite an impression that has been created by social conditioning that all human beings enjoy eating meat, there are many people who truly care about animals and hate to see animals being killed for meat production. From a social constructionist perspective, Melanie Joy alludes that people have been socially conditioned to believe that eating of meat is natural,' necessary and enjoyable. This is despite the fact that before people meat is consumed; animals suffer and treated with cruelty during the meat production process. Just like human beings, animals have a right to live. According to Melanie Joy and other animal activists, killing of animals for the sake of meat production is a violation of animal rights.

We should care about social constructionism as it relates to consumption of meat because animals deserve to live the same way human beings deserve to live. It is immoral to think that lives of animals are inconsequential. What makes human beings to think that their lives are of more importance than lives of animals? Claim makers use factual examples to convince us that human beings have acquired their taste for food and perceptions about different issues from the society. Tradition and beliefs have developed into a strong belief system among human beings. The strong belief system is also known as a schema. We should care about animals because we dont want to see them suffer. Our values as human beings and our behaviors are incongruent; therefore to alleviate the discomfort due to the incompatibility, we have to change our behaviors so that they may become compatible with our values. We can also change our perceptions so that our behaviors may appear as if they match our values. Towards the development of a schema that changes our behaviors to appear as if they match our values, a system is developed. Psychic numbing is the primary tool of the system that is meant to create a disconnect between our values and our behaviors. Psychic numbing transforms peoples empathy to apathy. Invisibility is the systems primary defense, and it reflects defenses of denial and avoidance which make an individual suppress his conscience when partaking in an activity or behavior that contradicts his values.

Policies should be initiated that will ensure that animals, poultry, fish and sea animals that are processed to produce meat are treated fairly during meat production. It is immoral and unfair to treat animals and poultry with the magnitude of cruelty that is revealed in the book. Also, poultry that contract diseases or those that are not viable to produce quality eggs or meat are treated with utmost cruelty. The author suggests that individuals should start seeing issues with their hearts and not just following social constructs blindly. Melanie Joy suggests that individuals should slowly desist from engaging in behaviors that are not compatible with their values and with time, their behaviors will become congruent with their values.


I think the book does a commendable job in shedding light on how perceptions play a major role on how individuals interpret information about several issues. In the book, the author reveals that social constructs have made individuals to consume beef without asking questions about the source of the meat but when the same individuals are asked to eat dog meat, a feeling of detest forms in their minds. The author reveals that human beings have different attitudes and behaviors towards animals not out of facts but out of social constructs (because it is the way things are).

The book educated me that most of our perceptions are based on social constructionism and social conditioning. I have educated myself that psychic numbing is used by individuals to deal with negative life experiences such as violence and denial. I have learned that what is considered normal is nothing more but beliefs and behaviors of the majority. I have also learned that mainstream ideas are ideas that are so entrenched to the extent that its practices and assumptions are perceived as common sense, norm, considered as facts not opinions. I have learned that social constructs are created by pumping into peoples heads that a certain idea is ideal or an absolute right. I have learned that the most effective way that is used to distort reality is to deny that it even exists.

The book persuaded me to think independently, not in line with people masses so that I may have an authentic perception about different issues in life. The book persuaded me to always make informed decisions and not to make decisions based on popularity and social constructionism. The book details the suffering that animals and poultry go through before their meat comes in contact with the consumer. Melanie Joy states that most meat enthusiasts are oblivious to the processing of animals and poultry to meat because players in the meat industry do not want consumers to know the cruelty that the animals and poultry go through. The American public is shielded from witnessing lives and death of billions of animals and poultry that are processed into meat every year. The American public is also shielded from knowing the cruelty that dairy cows go through, how millions of calves are treated as unwanted by-products of the daily industry and disposed of to veal producers. Americans are also shielded from the suffering and cruelty that fish and other sea animals go through when they are being processed into sea food. The author alludes that if meats enthusiasts knew the cruelty that the animals, poultry, fish and sea animals go through, they would cease to consume meat products. From the cruelty animals, poultry, fish and sea animals face yet most meat consumers are oblivious to the cruelty; it can be concluded that most individuals in society make decisions out of ignorance and lack of information. I have learned that social constructs are created by legitimization of ideology. Legitimization of an ideology takes place when its tenets are sanctioned by all social institutions followed by dissemination of the ideology through all the social institutions. News media and the legal institution are the most important institutions when it comes to the legitimization of ideology. Objectification, deindividualization, dichotomization and distortion of animals play a major role in promoting carnism.

I think social constructionism misleads people and denies them a chance to be true to themselves, to their true character, personalities, and nature. Social constructionism makes individuals be blind followers to what society has constructed as right and ideal.' Individualism has been stifled by social constructionism and social conditioning. I also think social constructionism steals peoples freedom to think for themselves and act accordingly.


Joy, M. (2011). Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. (Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows.) Cork: Red Wheel Weiser.

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